The Baltimore Angle on the National Opt Out Movement

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post blog “The Answer Sheet” noticed something I missed: that two of the movement’s leaders teach in Towson, Md., just up the road.

Among the leaders of the Opt Out movement is Shaun Johnson, an assistant professor of elementary education at Towson University who has taught fifth grade in D.C. and Silver Spring, and Morna McDermott, a Towson associate professor.

See “Education activists seek to collaborate with Occupy Wall Street” Posted at 02:09 PM ET, 10/15/2011


3 Comments to “The Baltimore Angle on the National Opt Out Movement”

  1. I’ve subscribed to The Bartleby Project ( for a couple of years now. I’d like to see the students actively and publicly refuse–and for their parents and the community to support them. Quite a dreamer, I know!


  2. Opt out sounds like a nice suburban idea wrapped us as a radical proposal. Upon closer reading, this is opt-backward for poor and moderate income families trapped in low performing schools. The test scores are not the only indicator of a low performing school. Visit some schools and witness sub-standard education without ever looking at the scores of students: outdated curriculum, more than 50% of students reading below grade level per grade, prison-like behavior modification of students, inadequate resources to teach and school leadership unprepared for the realities of children’s lives in low-income communities of color. The slow and tragic loss of a child’s mind is inextricably bound up in well-meaning people working with a agenda of low standards and low expectations for poor black and brown children.


    • Jack! Thanks for posting. I’m trying to wrap my head around the suburban angle. The federal government requires that states administer standardized tests if they want to receive federal education funding. So if you mean that only well to do suburban districts could afford to opt out, maybe you’re right. But I’d wager few states could afford to do without federal education dollars. And that’s the biggest obstacle the opt out movement will face.

      I can’t speak for the leaders of this movement, but it seems they’d agree with you that scores are an inadequate way to evaluate a school’s performance. (Actually, tests sometimes suggest that a school is performing poorly when it’s actually doing well.) Wouldn’t it be better for poor black and brown children if school districts (and corporate philanthropists) were to invest in eyes-on evaluations of individual schools by knowledgeable educators? Why don’t they? Is it too crass to say that it’s because there’s no profit to be had in doing it?

      Testing is a billion dollar industry that offers bureaucrats the cheapest possible tool for evaluating schools, students, and teachers. The companies who develop and score them – Frontline did a special on the industry almost a decade ago: – have absolutely no stake in how students perform on them or whether or not the tests are used to assess teachers. They don’t care why they’re used. They care that they’re used – widely and often. The testing industry makes money on every test that is taken, whether the students who take them are poor, moderately well off, or rich, and no matter what color they are. The more the better.

      Well-meaning people are the least of the problem for poor black and brown children. It’s the people who mean only to make a profit off of the work that students and teachers do in the nation’s public classrooms who are the biggest threat to the development of America’s young minds.

      Hope to see you soon! – Edit


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